Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Thoughts on Dahntahn - pt. 1

I'm throwing down my plan for Downtown Development right here... in several parts, just to give me several days worth of material. Let's start at the very beginning, as I've been informed it's a very good place to start:

Part 1: Why I'm optimistic about Downtown.

OK... so parts of Downtown look and smell like piss, which is hardly an incentive for development. There are, however, several parts of downtown that are attractive Urban Spaces: Grant Street, Penn Avenue, First Avenue, Gateway Center, parts of Wood and Smithfield Streets, Strawberry Way and William Penn Place. Other streets like 4th Avenue and Liberty Avenue have their moments as well. So I feel there is a good basis for attractive downtown opportunities, and good public space is not out of the realm of reality.

Second, there have been some improvements downtown over the last decade: Liberty Avenue, the plaza at PPG, the CAPA School, the PNC 1st Side Building, or the convention center. While there is a debate over the efficacy of some of the publicly funded projects, they are now a sunk cost. Still, there is existing investment that can be capitalized.

Third, there is a laundry list of upcoming developments that will increase the value of downtown: the new parking garage on Liberty and Grant, the African-American Cultural Center, the expansion of student housing, ongoing housing developments, the first side lofts, etc. Each of these developments adds a bit more to the viability of the downtown.

Fourth, while the plural of "anecdote" is not "data" there is increasing evidence that downtown living across the country is becoming a viable housing alternative, mostly to young urban pioneers or older empty-nesters. We're seeing this in other parts of the country, but it's a movement that's still in its infancy, especially here.

Fifth, $3.19/gallon. At some point the commuting cost alone will justify a flight back to the inner city.

So, you have reasonable public space, with significant evidence of public investment, risk takers, a nascent market niche, and a marginal efficiency creeping in. I'm optimistic.

Next Part II: Pessimism

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